One of the most interesting aspects of Rapa Nui is the richness of its language and culture. The Rapa Nui names, full of symbolism, reflect elements of nature, history, and legends of Easter Island..
Names in Rapa Nui language
Vananga Rapa Nui is the Polynesian-origin language currently spoken on Easter Island. Many of these words come from the ancient Rapanui language that has been orally transmitted from generation to generation. However, due to the mixing of peoples, the language incorporated many Polynesian terms from Tahiti, as well as from Spanish, English, and French.
The influence of missionaries, who imposed the Catholic religion at the end of the 19th century, slave raids, and the subsequent annexation of Easter Island to Chile, caused the natives to gradually abandon their ancient traditions. In this way, the use of tattoos, traditional clothing, beliefs, and language were forgotten. Even the ancient Rapa Nui names were displaced by Christian names, usually of Spanish origin, given during baptism.
In recent decades, the population of Easter Island, especially the younger generation, has dedicated themselves to recovering the values and customs of their ancestors that were being lost. Events and celebrations such as the Tapati Rapa Nui Festival or the Rapa Nui Language Day help to preserve and strengthen the unique cultural identity of the Rapanui people in an increasingly global and homogenous world.
Revival of Rapa Nui names
Among the manifestations of this rebirth of Rapa Nui’s ancestral idiosyncrasy, the recovery of traditional Easter Island names stands out. Many members of the younger generations proudly bear their ancestors’ names on their legal documents, while others add nicknames and Rapa Nui denominations to their official names according to their personality.
Names in Rapa Nui have a deep meaning and are full of symbolism. These names reflect the history and culture of the island and are often related to elements of nature. Some Rapa Nui names are used interchangeably for both men and women because they originally designated places, natural phenomena, and characters from the ancient myths and legends of Easter Island.
Currently, many island couples give Rapa Nui names to their babies. And lately, due to their beauty, meaning, and exoticism, more and more parents from Chile and other countries are choosing Easter Island names for their boys and girls. If this is your case, you can get inspired by the following list of Rapa Nui names we propose.
Rapa Nui names for women
Rapa Nui names for women refer to elements of nature, such as the stars, flowers or the sea. They also recall relevant female characters from local culture.
It refers to the famous beach of the same name and the month of July
Sister of the first king Hotu Matu’a
It means star
It is of Polynesian origin and refers to the goddess of fish
It means beyond. Island where Hotu Matu’a came from
Local name of the booby, a sea bird that nests on the island
It means stone
It means to get along with someone, to get used to it. It is the name of the famous pianist Mahani Teave
It means heart and comes from the Tahitian
It means moon
It means pretty eyes and that is the name of the Easter Island airport
It means angel
It means blue but also sea or ocean
Local name for virgin (see Ana o Keke)
It means flower, also refers to the turmeric plant
It refers to one of the best places to see the sunset
It means sea, tide
Local name for the red-tailed tropic bird
It means flower
Beautiful flower from the frangipani tree, used to make the monoi
It means young woman, maiden
Very popular name that means water
Vai Tiare o Vaitiare
It means flower of water or flowery water
Wife of the first king Hotu Matu’a
Other names are:
Hanana, Honiti, Mahilani, Mea Te Ra`a
Rapa Nui names for men
Rapa Nui names for men come from animals, natural phenomena, and important characters such as ancient warriors and leaders who played a prominent role in Rapa Nui’s history and legends.
Burial place of Hotu Matu’a
It means chief, dignitary, king. The first Ariki was Hotu Matu’a
Name of the last king of Rapa Nui that means Adam in Tahitian
Great-grandson of Hotu Matu’a
It means firstborn or prince
Name of ancient island tribe
It means parent, who bears fruit. In reference to Hotu Matu’a
It means small bird
It means new moon
Brother of Hotu Matu’a
Pedro in Rapanui language
A type of ornamental plant that grows in humid areas
Great-grandson of Hotu Matu’a and surname of the last king of the island
Name that refers to the east wind and the largest ahu on the island
It means strong and energetic wind, north wind.
Local name of the bird plover or golden plover
Name of the male sexual member, creation
Other names are:
Mautu´u, Terangi, Teva, Uko, Havini
Rapa Nui surnames
Most of the current inhabitants of Rapa Nui ethnicity descend from the few families that survived the terrible events that occurred at the end of the 19th century. Slave raids and epidemics decimated a population of several thousand to just a hundred.
Nowadays, their descendants share a few surnames that repeat, and it is said that, on the island, everyone is family. That is why the tapu (taboo) of incest arises. Pairing with a possible distant cousin who shares the same blood is taboo. For this reason, many Rapa Nui people join partners from continental Chile or abroad, thus avoiding the effects of endogamy.
Below, in alphabetical order, are the main Rapa Nui surnames currently found on Easter Island. Most are of Rapa Nui origin, but some come from foreigners who lived on the island.
Rapa Nui names for pets
Some owners interested in Rapa Nui culture look for Easter Island names for dogs or cats, due to their sound and meaning. Below we present a few that can serve as inspiration for naming your dogs with Rapa Nui names.
It means bold, brave, intrepid
It means brilliant
It means coal
It means chief, dignitary, king
It means generous
It means breeze
It means flying fish
It means firearm
It means energy, impulse
It means lord, owner, proprietor
It means reddish like the color of sunrise
It means insane, alienated, crazy
It means tail
It means friend, partner
It means horse
It means partner, colleague
It means heart in Tahitian
It means grandmother
It means son, child
It means brother
It means strong and energetic wind
It means adze or stone hammer with which they carved the moai satues
It means black
It means white water
It means spirit